'Screaming at the top of our lungs': essential workers call for vaccinations

As Ontario enters the first week of the newly announced province-wide shutdown, some worry the restrictions won’t bring the third wave under control.

To do that, they say the province needs to refocus its vaccination effort, targeting workplaces where the variants of concerns are spreading.

“From our position, we’re screaming at the top of our lungs,” says Unifor Local 444 president Dave Cassidy.

The Ford government placed essential workers at the tail of end phase two, which means they’ll be vaccinated beginning in June.

“They’ve been on top of each other on the line, working next to each other and it doesn’t seem like people are really talking about them being essential workers,” says Cassidy.

Cassidy would like to see changes to the paid sick day program, so workers can stay home and isolate.

“People live paycheque to paycheque and cannot afford to stay home, hence why they need to go to work.”

There are 2.1-million people who the province says cannot work from home.

Currently, the province has seen 241 active outbreaks in school and childcare settings.

OSST District 9 president Eric Roy would like to see staff who work with the most vulnerable students at the top of the phase two vaccination list.

About 2,000 OSSTF members belong to local bargaining units.

“If they are working with students that can’t be masked or not able to wear masks having to help them and things like that they should be prioritized even in the education community. As far as I know, no one here really has,” says Roy.

According to the province, there are 122 active outbreaks in he warehousing, shipping, distribution and construction industries, and just 26 in the service industries, which are currently closed.

An expert with the provinces vaccine distribution task force says the timeline could shift based on vaccine supply.

“There’s not going to be a one size fits all strategy,” says infectious disease specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch.

He believes the province should be doing whatever they can to lower the barriers to vaccinations.

“Bring it right to the factory, bring it right to the warehouse, right to the place of work and we can vaccinate there. Certainly there’s a framework for that.”

Another infectious disease specialist, Dr. Gerald Evans, believes there were would be a dramatic decrease in COVID cases, if younger adults who are essential workers were vaccinated.

“Models about vaccination do show us that if we do vaccinate younger people we control overall numbers much more profoundly than when we’re immunizing older people,” says Evans.